Internet privacy and what a website policy reveals about your brand

Lack of an Internet privacy policy on your organisation's website tends to show a lack of respect for the privacy of customers, suppliers, and employees - does it also reflect a business brand that you just can't trust?.

At a time when Internet privacy is always in the news you'd expect companies to take the hint. Growing concern over serious data breaches and rising identity theft show that online privacy is more important than ever. According to data obtained under a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request by digicoms vendor ViaSat, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) - the UK regulator - issued 20 monetary penalties in 2012-2013 totalling £2.6 million. Between March 2012 and March 2013, there were 1,150 self-reported breaches made to the ICO, despite only 730 being made between 22 March 2011 and 17 February 2012.

Chris McIntosh, chief executive of ViaSat UK, said it's pleasing to see the ICO make good on its promise to use both the “carrot and the stick” when enforcing the Data Protection Act.

But it's not just about having a policy in place. You've also got to practice what you preach. Over the next few months the ICO intends to examine 250 UK-based websites to assess how easy their privacy policies are to read and how clearly they explain how personal data is processed.

As Ian Williams, Lead International Policy Officer at the UK Information Commissioner's Office explains:

"Privacy policies might not sound like the most interesting topic for such a study, but they’re crucial in making sure consumers know how their personal information is being used.

Too often we find organisations using the notices to protect themselves rather than inform the public, and there’s no excuse for this," Mr Williams said

Internet privacy - get your policy right first time

E RADAR Top Tip 1: A well-written, well-implemented privacy policy on your website shows you are serious about protecting a user's personal information after collection.

Here are a few things to consider when writing a privacy policy for your website

  • Ensure your privacy policy is written clearly and honest.
  • Avoid confusing mixtures of ‘tick here to opt-ins’ and ‘tick here to opt-out’, and don’t pre-tick consent boxes.
  • Show your web users the difference between information they need to provide to get the goods or services they have requested, and information which is optional.
  • Review your privacy notice from time to time to make sure it is accurate, up to date and accessible to  everyone.
  • Read the Information Commissioner's guidance Privacy Notices Code of Practice (pdf) for more detailed advice about collecting and using personal information.

Need further help?

Why not get in touch with us if you need help to write a website privacy policy. With access to over 100 specialists and lawyers E RADAR can help you mitigate your online risks and give your business brand a well-earned boost.

If you are an E RADAR member you can also download our website privacy policy template